Have you ever been given the feedback, “you need to be more strategic”?

If so, you’re not alone. Whether you’re seeking to advance from mid-career or already senior and headed for the C-suite, being strategic is an essential skill.

The thing is, “being more strategic” is a fuzzy concept. Ask three managers what that means and you’re likely to get three different interpretations.

So getting the feedback that “you need to be more strategic” is a great first step. But then the tricky part is figuring out what to do with it.

Let’s demystify what it means to “be more strategic”

To demystify what it means to “be more strategic”, I held a special live session this week where I talked about How to Be Seen as Strategic and Be More Valued.

3:20 – What does it mean to “be more strategic”?
6:35 – Being Tactical vs. Being Strategic
10:00 – Why is being strategic important
12:27 – The 4 Aspects of Being Strategic
19:12 – The 13 Ways to Become and Be Seen as Strategic
37:03 – My answers to your questions

FREE Cheatsheet:
37 Things to Say and Ask in Meetings to Sound Strategic

Top 3 ways to become and be seen as strategic

During the live session, I shared 13 Ways to Become and Be Seen as Strategic. A great question I was asked was which of those thirteen ways are the three most important ones to nurture to become and be seen as strategic?

So here are my top 3 ways to be more strategic.

The number one priority is to make time to think

If you’re constantly busy with urgent tasks, it’s hard to think bigger thoughts. It’s like being a short order cook who’s completely occupied with keeping up with all the orders and making sure the operation is flowing.

In urgent task mode, it’s almost impossible to be truly strategic in your thinking. You just can't fit it in, in between all the chopping and changing.

To be strategic, you have to make time to think and do what you need to do to get resources, to delegate, to carve out time, to respect and do something with that time.

Next is to take a systems view

This means taking into consideration the entire ecosystem when making decisions, not just your own area. That’s because there are interdependencies across the units in your organization and beyond it.

For example, if you’re in the legal department, a policy that reduces risk might look sensible, but if the knock-on effect on the sales team’s ability to do business with clients is severely hampered, then it might not be worth it.

And the trend that’s affecting your suppliers could become a problem (or opportunity) for your organization in a few months’ time.

Your top management is certainly taking a systems view of things because they can totally miss the boat and become irrelevant if they don't. So if you want to keep advancing to the next level, it’s in your interest to develop your ability to take the systems view as well.

Finally, it’s to ask questions, speak up and share your thoughts

It's very hard to show you're strategic if you're not sharing your thoughts and ideas. Whether it’s in a meeting, on a call or even in writing, putting your insights out there gives others a way to see how strategic you are.

Another way to speak up is to ask questions. Framed properly, your questions can reveal you’re thinking broadly and deeply about things.

Asking the right question in the right way at the right time can shift the entire trajectory of the meeting or call. And put you in a whole different category in the eyes of peers and senior management.

So don’t keep your strategic thoughts and questions to yourself. Let them breathe!

FREE Cheatsheet:
37 Things to Say and Ask in Meetings to Sound Strategic

How will you become and be seen as strategic?

In my experience, these are the three most foundational ways to become and be seen as more strategic. For you, there could be a slightly different answer, given your context and capabilities in your career stage.

Which of these three ways would most help you be more strategic? 

Leave a comment and let me know.